“What is a city, but the people; true, the people are the city”
William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act 3, Scene 1

On the 26th of April 1940 the order was given for some nine hundred young Australians to gather at Ingleburn Army Camp, in Sydney’s south-western suburbs, to form the 17th Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force. Over the next five years these soldiers of the 2/17th would be deeply shaped by their experience of the war, for better and for worse, “with ups and downs, good times and bad, easy and tough, as fate dictated”.[1] Many boys became men, many men became friends, many men lost their lives and all men lost some friends.

The purpose of this exhibition is to examine the impact of the Second World War upon Sydney. In this regard, the focus on the 2/17th Battalion is not accidental. It demonstrates the War’s most significant contact with Sydney’s most instrumental and tangible form - Sydneysiders at war.
The ‘impacts’ of conflict are commonly rendered in forms abstract to human experience, as wider processes and grand narratives devoid of the real meanings attached to them by individuals. By examining the experience of the 2/17th as an individual Battalion the impacts of war upon Sydney are personalised and their meanings to contemporary Sydney are uncovered.

Accordingly, this exhibition acts as a memorialisation of the men, a dedication to the Battalion and most importantly, an endeavour to educate modern Sydneysiders about the significance of their legacy.
That legacy of conflict upon the Battalion was not confined to those who served - the experiences of the 2/17th did not exist in isolation. Those who survived, indelibly marked by their service, rejoined their city to shape its future - “The battalion produced good men to return to civilian life. There they made small and not small contributions”.[2] Those who did not return, their deaths or disappearances left Sydney a legacy all the more poignant in their absence. Most importantly, the war did not act unilaterally to shape those of the 2/17th Battalion, they in turn shaped the war.
Sydney would do well to learn about and remember the 2/17th– the Sydney past, the Sydney at war.

[1] 2/17 Battalion History Committee, ‘What We Have - We Hold!’: A history of the 2/17th Australian Infantry Battalion, 1940-1945, 2/17 Battalion History Committee, Balgowlah, 1990, p.318.
[2] ibid., p.xiii.

Information researched by Nick & DominiqueLayout done by Dominique